Alright, Montrealers. The sun is shining (yasss), the temperature is rising (preach), and it's finally that time. Time for what, you ask? Time for First Fridays!
For those of us who don't know what First Fridays are, allow me to explain.
On the first Friday of every month, between May and October, all of Montreal's finest food trucks gather at the Olympic Stadium for some seriously awesome food, and a lot of seriously legit fun. It's every food lover's paradise, basically.
That's not all, though. In addition to these delicious food trucks, this year's edition will include a bar, bands and DJs for a truly unforgettable and unique experience (side note: I will 100% be spending all my time here, so if you see me, come say hi :).
And this year marks Montreal's First Fridays fifth anniversary, so you know you're in for a few extra surprises.
Bonjour-Ho-Ho-Ho! The city finally feels like it's coming alive with Christmas decorations and holiday spirit at every turn. And you know what that means? This weekend in Montreal is going to be unreal.
If you want to feel all those festive holiday feels then the first thing you have to do is get your butt off the couch. Here are a bunch of things you can do and places you can go as you get excited about this special time of year.
Montreal Christmas Village at Atwater Market: November 25 to December 19, 2021 Jean-Talon Christmas Market: November 27 to December 23, 2021 Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal on Sainte-Catherine: November 20, 2021 to January 2, 2022
Address: Atwater Market, Jean-Talon Market, and Place des Arts, Montreal
Why You Need To Go: You know the holidays are in full swing when the markets start popping up here, there and everywhere.
Sure, the weather's cooling down. And yes you're probably working from home so putting on pants is an added hassle. But it's only getting colder and we've been cooped for too long... so that's all the more reason to get your butt off the couch and have fun! Make the most of the weekend with these exciting things to do.
Why You Need To Go: The world-famous Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal isn't just a church. It's currently home to an immersive light experience which the website calls "a stunning universe presented upon one of the most sublime canvases imaginable."
Why You Need To Go: The only thing better than Sunday brunch is going somewhere before it becomes "the cool spot." Try somewhere new, that's not the usual "scene," so you can roll out of bed and avoid seeing 1,000 people, you know.
Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood is currently having a moment. Time Out named it the 18th coolest neighbourhood in the world in 2021 and, according to locals, it's for damn good reason.
Bordered by Highway 40 in the north, avenue Casgrain in the west, boulevard Jean-Talon in the south and rue Garnier in the east, Villeray is packed full of shops, restaurants, cafés, bike paths, charming architecture, green spaces and community gardens. Parc Jarry and Jean-Talon Market are also mere blocks outside the neighbourhood's technical border lines.
Keen on exploring one of the coolest parts of the city, but not sure where to go? We asked two experts for help: Villeray residents Émilie Bouchard and Stéphanie Guéritaud, both of whom have called the neighbourhood home for at least 15 years.
Why You Need To Go: Guéritaud calls this place "the one and only bakery." But you don't need to take her word for it. Its baguette won the title of second-best baguette in the world at France's prestigious Mondial Du Pain competition in 2011.
"A must for its variety but also for a coffee and croissant on its little terrasse!" said Bouchard.
Why You Need To Go: Guéritaud said this café is the neighbourhood's "newest little Instagram gem." It serves sandwiches, ice creams, gelatos, pastries and coffees, and — thanks to the colourful, floral decor — it makes every day feel like Valentine's Day.
Pro Tip: If you're there, you can also head across the street to the new Cantine Emilia, which Guéritaud described as a "really cute and relatively new place with affordable Portuguese specialties."
Why You Need To Go: This was one of Celine Dion's late husband's favourite restaurants, Guéritaud told us. And, according to reports, she's correct. René Angélil clearly had good taste when it came to spotting talent so we'll take his word when it comes to food, too.
Why You Need To Go: From Miss Villeray to Brasserie EtOH, Guéritaud said Villeray is "a great to have a drink" but one of her favourite spots is Huis Clos, an organic wine bar and restaurant with a huge drink menu including fun cocktails.
Why You Need To Go: This coffee shop is known for its delicious Italian coffee, massive sandwiches, and seasonal terrasse. A Yellow Page article described the owner's vision for the decor as something that could "blend in seamlessly with any stunning Wes Anderson movie" — and the Wes Anderson vibe is exactly what Bouchard said she likes best about it.
Why You Need To Go: "There are several grocery stores/fruit stores in the neighbourhood that are adorable. The people are really welcoming and we keep in touch as time goes by. The Tsikinis fruit shop with its employees who have been there forever," Bouchard said.
According to Bouchard, the service alone makes this the perfect spot to pick up fruit on the way to a Parc Jarry picnic during the warmer months.
Why You Need To Go: Bouchard said Knuckles, a new-ish casual Italian eatery on the rue Jarry strip, is really nice with large tables, making it COVID-19 friendly. Not to mention, the food will make you drool.
Why You Need To Go: While Bouchard is vegetarian, she said "carnivores agree that Pascal le Boucher is a must." And while she doesn't go there for the meat, she does go to Pascal to pick up Clos Saragnat cider so you can really get it all there.